Saudi Olympic judo star sets her sights on 2024 Paris Games

Saudi judo star Tahani Al-Qahtani said she now has her sights set on the 2024 Games in Paris. (Supplied)
Saudi judo star Tahani Al-Qahtani said she now has her sights set on the 2024 Games in Paris. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 December 2021

Saudi Olympic judo star sets her sights on 2024 Paris Games

Saudi judo star Tahani Al-Qahtani said she now has her sights set on the 2024 Games in Paris. (Supplied)
  • Tahani Al-Qahtani had her first taste of Olympic competition in Tokyo this summer, and says she aims to build on the experience she gained
  • She also plans to become an instructor and help train the next generation of female Saudi judo stars, and hopes the sport will be added to the curriculum in schools

 

RIYADH: After competing at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, Saudi judo star Tahani Al-Qahtani, said she now has her sights set on the 2024 Games, in Paris, and hopes to win the Kingdom’s first gold medal.

The 22-year-old from Riyadh also revealed that she plans to become an instructor and train the next generation of Saudi women in judo, and hopes that it will be added to the curriculum in Saudi schools.

“I want to qualify for the next Olympics with my efforts, after I had the opportunity to participate in the last Olympics in Tokyo, and to accomplish a great achievement and win a gold medal in the name of the Kingdom.”

She said that she gained valuable experience competing in Tokyo, and although she suffered a quick defeat against her first opponent, from Slovenia, when she faced her next rival, from Israel, she performed better and held out for longer before losing. As a result, she said, she was satisfied with her performance and believes the experience was a step forward in her judo career.

Al-Qahtani had planned to compete in the Grand Slam Paris and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam events in October and November this year, but said a hand injury prevented this and her recovery will take another four months.

She revealed that she was inspired to take up judo when, while playing basketball with a team at King Saud University in Riyadh, “I saw a coach wearing a judo suit and she caught my attention. So, I followed her and talked to her about the sport and finally decided to take up judo. Consequently, I became one of the first Saudi competitors in this fun sport, with my teammates Raneem Harish and Hessa Al-Maliki.

“I traveled to Egypt and joined a training camp when I still had an orange belt. I watched the African champions and admired their excellence in the sport and wanted to reach their levels.”


Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices
Updated 19 January 2022

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

Qatar World Cup ticket sales launched at reduced prices

DOHA: Qatar World Cup ticket sales were launched at reduced prices on Wednesday with residents and migrant workers able to attend games for just $11 as concerns persist over Covid-19.
Authorities have not yet announced how many fans will be allowed into stadiums for the first World Cup in an Arab country, which runs from November 21 until December 18.
Football’s world governing body FIFA opened a draw which offers individual match tickets for as little as $69 for international fans — about one third less than at Russia 2018 — but a ticket for the final could cost up to $1,607.
Qatari residents, including migrant laborers whose treatment has been a source of controversy for the organizers, will be able to get tickets for as little as $11.
Fans who apply now for the different packages — for individual games or following a team, or for special stadium tickets — will go into a draw after the first deadline on February 8. FIFA said fans who are successful in a random draw will be told by March 8.


Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
Updated 19 January 2022

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
  • Shock exit of 2010 World Cup semi-finalists warning for Egypt ahead of vital clash against Sudan

RIYADH: The result of the 2021 African Cup of Nations so far is Comoros 3, Ghana 2. It has to be one of the greatest results in the history of Arab football.

Back in 2010, Ghana were a Luis Suarez handball and then a penalty away from reaching the semi-final of the World Cup. That ended up as a hugely painful defeat for the Black Stars, but Tuesday night brought another loss that will haunt them for years to come.

It will also serve as a useful warning to Egypt ahead of their crucial Nile Valley derby against Sudan on Wednesday evening.

Going into the final game of Group C, few gave Comoros, a country with a population of less than 1 million, any hope, and understandably so. Ranked 132 in the world with no previous appearances in Africa’s top tournament and no goals in the two games before this, the Coelacanths were facing the four-time champions ranked 80 places higher. In short, they were playing for pride heading for defeat and heading home.

That was not what happened on a warm evening in the northern Cameroon city of Garoua.

It was fitting that Comoros’ first ever goal at this level came from veteran striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane after four minutes and it was equally fitting that it was a beauty, a shot rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

A red card midway through the first half for Ghana captain Andre Ayew may have been harsh but really gave the minnows hope and then just after the hour, Comoros were in dreamland as Ahmed Mogni made it 2-0.

Then the game really took off with Ghana, throwing caution to the wind, pushing forward to be rewarded by two goals from corners in quick succession. But, with just five minutes remaining, Mogni scored his second and his team’s third. Ghana were out.

It was a breathless finish and the results and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game made headlines around the world. The Africa Cup of Nations has taken time to get going with the first round of games short of goals, drama, and talking points. Not anymore.

There were also doubts expressed about the format of the first stage which sees just eight teams from 24 banished. This often means that the big boys can afford a slip up or two but get through in the end. Not this time.

Ghana may not be the same team that reached the last eight at the 2010 World Cup, but nobody expected a fourth-place finish and instant elimination.

Nobody in the Comoros capital Moroni will care as their heroes gave all a night to remember. There may be more. Comoros are assured of third place. If Equatorial Guinea defeat Sierra Leone and then Guinea-Bissau do not defeat Nigeria in the final games of their respective groups, then Comoros will go on to the second round as one of the four best-performing third-placed teams.

Yet their victory has not only lit up the tournament but serves as a warning to others and Comoros, a team that have never appeared in Africa’s biggest event before, can help the continent’s most successful side. Egypt have lifted the trophy on no less than a record seven occasions and what happened to Ghana could happen to them against Sudan on Wednesday.

Compared to Ghana, the Pharaohs are in a better position with three points from their first two games, a loss to Nigeria and then a narrow win over Guinea-Bissau. They still need a point to be certain of a place in the knockout stage as defeat could spell the end. Such an outcome is not impossible. Sudan may have lost to Nigeria, but the Super Eagles have been perhaps the best team of the tournament so far along with the hosts and they were impressed with the Secretary Birds.

“The Sudanese side was more difficult than the Egyptians, but we expected it,” said Nigerian star Moses Simon.

To add extra tension and unpredictability to the situation is the fact that Sudan would love nothing more than to inflict a painful defeat on their northern neighbors.

Sudan defender Mazin Mohamedein said: “The Egypt match is special for us as Sudanese, as it is the Nile Valley derby. The Sudanese people are all looking forward to this match and we are looking forward to winning it and reaching the next round as this is the least we can do for our people.”

For Egypt, the game may determine whether they just started the tournament slowly and are getting into their stride in time for the knockout rounds or if there are bigger issues at play. Star forward Mohamed Salah scored the winner against Guinea-Bissau and believes it is the former.

The Liverpool player said: “We have to fight in this very difficult tournament. All the teams know how to play football and they have many players in Europe. We must believe in our abilities and our chances, fight as much as we can, and see where we go in the tournament.”

Egypt have to be careful however to ensure that they do not go the same way as Ghana.


Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
Updated 19 January 2022

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
  • Five-part series will lift sport’s profile across the nation, and build support for Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif ahead of the $5m Saudi International next month

RIYADH: A specially commissioned documentary series following two of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling golf stars is aiming to raise the game’s profile among the sport’s growing fan base in the Kingdom.

The Golf Saudi-backed #SeeItAll Series follows amateur golfers Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif as they prepare to go head to head with global stars of the game at next month’s PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Shot over five episodes, the behind-the-scenes documentary follows the two golfers as they practice with their coaches, spend time on and off the golf course with their families, and put in the physical and mental training needed to ensure they go into February’s $5 million prize-pot tournament ready to compete at the highest level.

The first episode of the documentary is available on the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers’ social media channels.

“Both Saud and Faisal are incredible talents. We are proud to see them performing at an elite level internationally, and here within the Kingdom as representatives of Golf Saudi,” Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and deputy chairman of Golf Saudi, said.

Devised by Golf Saudi, the #SeeItAll Series aims to bring Saudi sports fans closer to both Salhab and Al-Sharif, expanding the golfers’ fan base for next month’s Asian Tour sanctioned event.

“We have watched them develop at an impressive rate over the last five years through our Elite Coaching Academy. The work has paid off, with both men claiming fantastic recent wins, including Saud’s victory in last year’s Jordan Open, and Faisal’s recent triumphs in both the Saudi Open and Pan Arab Championship in Egypt,” Al-Sorour said.

“These successes are testament to the hard work, talent and dedication of the pair, plus their strength of character,” he said.

“Their achievements are inspiring — something we want to bring to as many young Saudis as possible, with golf and sport generally continuing to grow exponentially in the Kingdom.”

Following their respective 2021 triumphs — a year that also saw Saudi Arabia’s national team convincingly clinch the title at the 40th edition of the Arab Golf Championship, beating more than 10 countries by a comfortable nine-shot margin — both Salhab and Al-Sharif head to Royal Greens for what will be their third appearance at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The pair will play alongside the Kingdom’s sole professional golfer, Othman Almulla.

Al-Sorour added: “With the #SeeItAll Series, we hope to inspire more Saudis to embrace and follow Faisal and Saud’s journey with golf.”

The two players will take their biggest step yet at next month’s tournament.

“They will test their talents against the very best in the world — the likes of Major-winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry,” Al-Sorour said.

“We hope by showing how committed Saud and Faisal are to the game of golf, it will inspire Saudis of all ages.”

Speaking earlier this year, 25-year-old Salhab said that rubbing shoulders with the world’s best golfers during the $5 million tournament is not something that he takes for granted.

“It means a lot to take part in the Saudi International once again, especially considering I received the invite after winning the Saudi Open,” he said.

“I will never forget the reaction when we first saw the names announced for the tournament this year. Some of the national team players and I started jumping up and down, we were so excited. It is incredible to think how far Saudi Arabia has come in world of golf and to now see these players compete in our country.”

He added: “I encourage all Saudis, whatever their level of interest in golf, to come out and support the players and the events that everyone in Golf Saudi works tirelessly to organize. The quality of the tournament is incredible. Seeing the world’s elite golfers compete in the Kingdom is something that every Saudi should cherish.”


Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
Updated 19 January 2022

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
  • Veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council

MELBOURNE: Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka threw her support Wednesday behind a vaccine mandate on the women’s tour, as tennis wrestles with the fall-out of the saga surrounding unvaccinated Novak Djokovic.
The veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council, which is working through the challenges posed by coronavirus.
Those were laid bare by the chaos and confusion that engulfed vaccine-skeptic Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the Australian Open.
Speaking in Melbourne, Azarenka admitted it could be legally challenging to enforce but she believes it would be “helpful for everybody” if the WTA Tour considered a no-jab, no-play policy.
“Well, from my standpoint it’s been very clear. I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated, that’s what I did for myself,” the 32-year-old Belarusian said.
“If you ask me just for my opinion if that should be the case, I think it would just be helpful for everybody in the world, especially when we are traveling internationally.”
But the former world number one acknowledged that forcing people to be jabbed could prove problematic.
“Some countries will not allow mandates. I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge, I think that’s something that we are facing,” she said.
To play at the Australian Open players must be vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic believed he was exempt based on recently contracting COVID-19, but it was challenged by Australian authorities and after a high-stakes legal battle he flew out of Melbourne on Sunday.
Azarenka said the drawn-out controversy became “a circus” and there “should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward.”
“I think as soon as there is a grey area in the rules, that gives a bit too much questions, and situations like this happen,” said the Belarusian, who revealed she caught COVID-19 in November.
“On certain things I think black-and-white approach is necessary. In my opinion, this should be the case.”


Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam
Updated 19 January 2022

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam
  • Host nation lead Group B on goal difference and will meet Australia in their second match

Saudi Arabia launched the 20th Asian Handball Championship on Tuesday at the Ministry of Sports Hall in Dammam by defeating India 54-30 to top Group B on goal difference from Iran, who beat Australia 32-10 on the same day.

The opening ceremony was attended by Prince Fahd bin Jalawi, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, as well as Badr Diab, vice president of the International Handball Federation for Asia, and Fadel Al-Nimr, president of the Saudi Handball Federation.

Kuwait kicked off the action in Group A by beating Jordan 42-31 in Dammam, while South Korea comfortably overcame Singapore 40-9 in the same group.

In Group C, Iraq posted a tight 32-31 win over the UAE  and Qatar beat Oman 31-14.

Group D saw Bahrain complete a comprehensive 46-14 win over Vietnam at Prince Nayef Sports City in Qatif, while Uzbekistan defeated Hong Kong 28-24.

Eight matches will take place on Wednesday, with Saudi Arabia taking on Australia in Group B and Iran facing India at Prince Nayef Sports City in Qatif.

In Group A, South Korea take on Jordan in Dammam, while in Group D Qatar face Iraq and the UAE clash with neighbors Oman at the same time.

In Group D, leaders Bahrain will face Uzbekistan in Dammam, while Vietnam and Hong Kong go head to head in Qatif Arena.